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What is cupping?

Ashley Williams is a holistic healing coach and vegan lifestyle expert. Ashley works with women to heal chronic health issues and make more ethical food choices. GreenlightHH.com

This traditional Oriental technique can be a serious game-changer, especially if you’re dealing with chronic pain.

You’re probably familiar with acupuncture. You’ve got that friend who swears by her chiropractor, or maybe you go for deep-tissue massages regularly. But I’d bet you’re not familiar with one of the other healing modalities that can be a serious game-changer, especially if you’re dealing with chronic pain.

It’s called cupping. And it leaves these weird alien-esque bruises all over.

Similar to deep-tissue massage, cupping helps to draw out toxins and activate the lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is your body's clean-up crew, helping to rid the body of toxins, move white blood cells and is a crucial subset of the circulatory system.

Like acupuncture, cupping is a traditional treatment found in Oriental medicine dating back thousands of years. It’s similarly used to remove stagnation of Qi (life-force energy) throughout the body. In Chinese medicine, stuck Qi is considered one of the main causes of chronic pain and illness.

Cupping is administered by small glass cups being applied and suctioned to the skin, typically the back, but they can be applied to other parts of the body, along the meridian points. By sucking up the skin into the cups (that's where those bruises come from) the cups break up stagnation, increase blood flow and begin the process of removing toxins.

According to the Pacific College for Oriental Medicine, “The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism and even cellulite. For weight loss and cellulite treatments, oil is first applied to the skin, and then the cups are moved up and down the surrounding area.”

My personal experience with cupping is that it was the thing that finally ended my lifelong chronic pain.

I’d been seeing an amazing acupuncturist for months, along with getting regular massages and seeing a chiropractor once a week. I was on Chinese herbs and following a healthy diet. While all those things helped, I was still dealing with frequent pain all over my body. Pain was something I’d had since childhood, and I was formally diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis as a teenager.

Finally, after my acupuncturist performed a second round of cupping, I was pain-free. For the first time in 24 years.

Needless to say, I couldn’t recommend cupping more highly. It changed my health and my life and led me to become obsessed with alternative medicine. Many acupuncturists or other Chinese medicine practitioners are trained in this method. It’s most effective when combined with other treatments, but can be beneficial on its own.

Check out this video for an example. Cups can be applied while heated or by a nifty screw-on contraption most U.S. practitioners will likely have. As odd as it looks, it really doesn’t hurt more than a tight, pinching feeling.

Because the bruising can last for several weeks, I’d suggest getting in for a cupping session ASAP before bathing suit season. Otherwise you’ll have a lot of explaining to do!

Have you tried cupping?

Photo credit: Ashley Williams/Global Medical Supplies Ltd. All rights reserved.
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